With Thanksgiving to God
November 22nd, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-22-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing a Thanksgiving message. It is on a text that I particularly love. It has some of the most profound meanings for us, and you will see it as God helps me unfold it. The one hundred sixteenth Psalm, beginning at verse 12:
What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,
I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” God has been so good and merciful, what shall I bring to Him by hand, or by heart, or by mouth, or by life for all that God has done for me? It is a holy and a worthy question. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” To praise God, and to be thankful to the Lord, to love God is no small part of the sum total of religion.
As the Lord said when they brought to Him that Roman coin, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and render unto God the things that are God’s” [Matthew 22:21]. What shall I render unto God? He’s been so good to me. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” I ought not to forget one of those benefits. It’s like this music they play here so beautifully, just leaving out a note would spoil the flow of the melody. So it is in my heart. To leave out one of God’s benefits would be ungrateful. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me?” Life, care and protection – – which brings to my mind my mother and my father who cared for me when I was helpless – – for my home, for shelter, for my country, for my church, for Jesus and my salvation, and for the promises, all of those tomorrows. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?”
Then he answers: “This will I do,” and he has four things that he says he will do to render to God thanksgiving for all of His benefits. One: “I will take the cup of salvation.” Now isn’t that an astonishing thing? “What shall I return to God?” And you’d think he was going to bring Him something, he was going to give Him something, going to return to Him something. But when he mentions it, the first thing he says, “What shall I render unto the Lord, what shall I bring unto the Lord? I will take;” just the opposite of what you might think.
Well, what could that mean? “What shall I render unto the Lord, what shall I bring Him? I will take, I will take the cup of salvation,” or the cup of deliverance. What they did back there in that ancient day in Israel, you’ll find it here in Numbers, you’ll find it in Leviticus, and you’ll find it in the habitual life of the people. Upon some occasion of great deliverance or upon some occasion of expressed blessing or thanksgiving, the priest would take a cup. Or the elder would take a cup, and he would hold it up, and he would express for himself and all of the people the occasion of thanksgiving and of gratitude for the deliverance. Then all of them would drink of it. And it was called the cup of blessing, or the cup of salvation, or the cup of deliverance.
Our Lord did that. He held up a cup, and He said, “This cup, this fruit of the vine is the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins. Drink ye, all of you, of it” [Matthew 26: 27-28]. The cup of salvation or deliverance; drink in thanksgiving for the great deliverance and blessing of God. Now, that’s what he says here, “I will take that cup of blessing, of salvation and deliverance;” for I could not think of anything that would grieve the heart of our Lord more than to refuse His mercies.
After God has done all that even God could do for us, then to reject Him, oh how it must break His heart. “I will take them, what Christ has done for me: the pouring out of the life of our Lord for me, the mercies of Jesus for me, I will take them; I will receive them.” And God is blessed; that is, He’s made makarios, happy; “Blessed are ye,” makarios, “Happy are ye.” It pleases God when we receive His love and His mercies. And that’s what He says here: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of blessing, and deliverance, and salvation, and I will drink it to the full.”
In one of our charity hospitals, they brought in a little starved emaciated boy. And the nurse brought the little fellow a full glass of milk and put it in his hand and said to the little starving urchin, “Drink it.” And the boy with wondering eyes looked back to the nurse and said, “Nurse, how deep can I drink?” because every glass of milk he’d ever seen had to be shared by a large family, and each one could just drink so much, just so much. “How deep may I drink?” And the nurse replied, “Why son, drink to the full, drink all of it.”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and drink it to the full;” thanking God for His mercies toward me, dying for me, buried for me, raised for me, ascended into heaven for me, pleads at the right hand of God for me; that will I do.
Second: “I will call upon the name of the Lord.” What shall I render unto the Lord for all His goodnesses toward me? I will call upon His name. Well, whoever wrote this psalm certainly loved that employment. In the one hundred sixteenth Psalm, four times he says that. In verse 2, “I will call upon Him as long as I live;” verse 4, “Then called I upon the name of the Lord;” then where I am reading now, verse 13, “I will call upon the name of the Lord;” and verse 17, “And will call upon the name of the Lord.” Evidently he loved to do it, and evidently the Lord was delighted with it.
To talk about the Lord, and to speak to the Lord, and to call upon His name is one of the things that the psalmist said he could do to render unto God thanksgiving for what the Lord had done for him. Well, when you start thinking about that, it is so reasonably natural. What if you had somebody you loved and lived with, and then you never spoke to them? That’s what you do when you pout and get mad. Do any of you deacons ever pout? Do you ever get mad? Do you ever shut up like a clam with your wife? Shall I ask you to hold up your hands if you ever did? Wouldn’t that be embarrassing? Now just imagine living all your life like that; somebody you love and are close to, and you never speak to them. Oh, it’s unthinkable, isn’t it? So it is to the Lord. It pleases the Lord when we think about Him, and talk about Him, and call upon His name.
I don’t think there’s a prettier verse in the Old Testament than this one from the Book of Malachi, where you youngsters sang about tithing and bringing an offering to the Lord today, do you remember this passage?
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and the Lord caused a book of remembrance to be written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.
And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them as a father spareth his own son that serveth him
Isn’t that pretty? All of you teenagers that think that’s pretty, hold up your hand? Amen. That’s beautiful.
Thinking upon the name of the Lord and calling upon His name; why, you can do that walking down the road. Isn’t that right? You can do that going to work. Isn’t that right? You could do that pounding a typewriter. You can do that stirring food over the kitchen stove. We can do that lying down at night, and we can do that getting up in the morning; thinking about the Lord and calling upon His name. To me, that’s what Paul meant when he said, “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. I don’t think he meant that I was to be kneeling in prayer or with my hands folded all time. Even the Lord didn’t pray all the time like that. I think what Paul meant was every part of our life is to be in the spirit and attitude of prayer. Ask God, ask Him for anything. Call upon His name anywhere. Ask God to help you in the little things of life, as well as in the big things of life. Make Him a partner, “I will call upon the name of the Lord.”
Number three: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all His people.” There’s no one that goes through life that does not somewhere sometime make some kind of a promise to God. We all do it. Sometimes the vow is made in anguish and despair. Sometimes it’s made in ecstasy, and in thanksgiving and gratitude, a time of unusual blessing or deliverance. Sometimes it’s made in trouble and in confusion; don’t know where to turn. And sometimes it’s made in deep sorrow.
But all of us have said things to God, promising the Lord a vow. He says, “I will pay that vow in the presence of all His people.” Well, why couldn’t he do it in a closet somewhere? You know, that’s in God’s Book from beginning to end, this public committal of your life to God, coming down here to the front, saying it before the congregation, standing up, counted. That’s all through the Word of God. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” or again, “Whoever shall confess Me before men,I will pay my vow in the presence of all His people.”
Why this public, open commitment? Well, I have looked at it for all of the years of my pastoral life, and I’ve found among other things, two things with it. One, it helps me to do it. I may have many, many secret commitments to God, but it blesses my heart when I make a public commitment of my life to the Lord. And second, it helps other people. When I see you stand up for Jesus, I am encouraged. When I see you come down the line, come down that aisle, and come down that stairway, and you commit your life to the Lord, it blesses me. It blesses the whole congregation.
Now evidently, as he speaks of that, “I will pay my vows unto the Lord, in the presence of all His people,” evidently in his discussion in this psalm of some great deliverance, evidently some of them had lost their lives. So he says, remembering those who publicly giving their lives to God, offering their lives to the Lord, had died, he says, “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Some, I say, evidently in that public commitment of their lives to God – doing God’s will – had lost their lives. I would suppose that in Israel this psalm was a thanksgiving psalm for some great public deliverance; and in that deliverance, some of them had lost their lives. So when he says that public commitment, then he thought of those who died and says that, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Oh dear, and when I read the passage, I think of those people too!
They call me, day before yesterday, and said, “Pastor, one of your boys has lost his life in Vietnam. Curtis Rogers, the son of Orville and Esther Beth Rogers has been killed, a marine in Vietnam.” I put the phone down, buried my face in my hands, and cried, wept. Reckon God was there where that boy fell? Reckon God marked the place? Did God see it? Dear people, by the Word on the sacred page, no child of the Lord ever falls but that God sees it, and marks it, and knows it. He is there by that bedside in that last convulsive agony; He smoothes the pillow under our head. He receives us to Himself in glory, even these that are unknown. Do you ever read things like this and wonder? In the message of our Lord to the church at Pergamos, He says, “Even in those days, wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you” [Revelation 2:13]. Who is Antipas? Nobody knows. Nobody knows anybody who knows who Antipas was; but God knows, the Lord knows. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
I want you to look at the word that he uses, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” When the Lord created the world and the starry firmament, He looked at it and said, “And God saw that it was very good, it was exceeding good.” But you look through the whole story, the story of all the creation, and not one time does the Book say, “And God looked upon it and saw that it was precious.” God looked upon it and saw that it was “very good;” but not once God looked upon it and said, “It is precious.” But that’s what He says here. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
Well, why is that particularly precious? Seems to me it’d be the opposite, doesn’t it to you? Just the opposite. Death was not intended. Death is an interloper and an intruder. God never intended death. Death came with Satan, and with sin, and with judgment. Death, death is a destroyer. God calls death an enemy. It always is. All the songs you’ll ever sing and all the flowers you’ll ever bring to a funeral service will never cover over quite that horrible ghastly visage of death. That’s an enemy, God says. Yet he’ll say, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
Well, Lord how is that? It seems just the opposite. Well, as you read the Book, some of these things God reveals to us who love Him and think upon His name. Why does God call it precious, the death of His saints? Here’s one: going to the exact exegetical nature of the psalm, when he was thinking about those public commitments, those public vows, the offering of life, then he thought about those who died for that great commitment. Well, that’s the triumph of the martyrs, isn’t it? When you read this Greek New Testament – – you know you feel so strange when you read and you come across that word “martyr”, martyr, martyr – – it’s just an ordinary Greek word for “witness, a testifier”, but the Greek word is “martyr, martyr.”
Well, where did that word “martyr, martus, where does that word “martyr” ever come to mean somebody who lays down his life? Well the answer is obvious in Christian history. The man who witnessed for Christ was so many times a man who was burned at the stake, or drowned in the water, or crucified, or rotted in dungeons; so the word for “witness” in the passing of time to us came to mean “martyr, one who laid down his life”. Why, you think of Stephen, of Paul, of Ignatius, of Polycarp, of Savonarola, of Tyndale, of John Huss, of Balthazar Hubmaier, of Felix Mantz; these are the heroes of the faith. They’re the martyrs of God, and they’re precious in the sight of the Lord. God says so.
Another thing about death, how God could look upon it and say, “Precious in His sight is the death of His saints,” another thing; this is the climactic, triumphant victory of Jesus our Lord. He came to destroy death. And in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, there is that outline of the tremendous victory of Christ over death. And then another thing; why should it be precious in the sight of the Lord, the death of His saints?
My brethren, this, this speaks of the great final miracle wrought by the hand of the omnipotent God! This speaks of the resurrection of God’s people, God’s saints from among the dead. That’s the Christian faith. “If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him” [2 Timothy 2:11-12]. And as great as are all the miracles of God – – and that’s the signature of God, miracle; if God did it, it’s miraculous; the sun that shines, and the stars that glow in the night, and the lilies that come up from the sod, and a thousand other things all miraculous – – but there is no miracle like that of raising from the very dead these who have placed their trust in Jesus. That’s the preciousness in the sight of the Lord, the death of His saints.
Wherever they are buried in this earth, there God marks the spot. And as you’ve heard me say from this sacred pulpit, I am so much a literalist in believing the Word of God that I think the very molecules and the very atoms that make up this frame, God will put back together again in an immortalized, glorified body. It shall be this body – – like it was the Lord’s body – – it shall be this body, this one that shall be spoken into immortality and into glory. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
Now the fourth and the last one: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Do you remember this beautiful verse in Hebrews? “By Him, by Jesus, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks in His name” [Hebrews 13:15]. The sacrifice of thanksgiving, that is, the fruit of our lips giving praise to God. O Lord, You have been so good to me.
Here’s a poem from England:
Today, upon a bus I saw
A lovely girl with golden hair
I envied her, she seemed so gay,
And wished I were as fair
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle
She had one leg, and wore a crutch,
But as she passed, a smile.
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs, the world is mine.
And then I stopped to buy some sweets,
The lad who sold them had such charm
I talked with him, he seemed so glad,
If I were late ‘twould do no harm
If he’d stop and visit a moment:
And as I left he said to me,
I thank you, you have been so kind.
It’s nice to talk with folks like you,
You see, he said, I’m blind.
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes, the world is mine.
Later, walking down the street I saw
A child with eyes of blue
He stood and watched the others play,
It seemed he knew not what to do
I stopped a moment, then I said,
Why don’t you join the others, dear?
He looked ahead without a word,
And then I knew, he could not hear
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes to see the sunset glow,
Ears to hear what I would know,
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I am blessed indeed, the world is mine.
[“The World is Mine”; cited by Pauline Greenhill in True Poetry,, p 122, 1989]
I am rich. I am a multi-billionaire. What would I take for my eyes? What would I take for my feet? What would I take for my ears? What would I take for my hands? What would I take for my Lord? What would I take for my church? What would I take for you? Not for the substance of all God’s creation. I am rich in Him. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”
Bless your name, Lord, thank you Jesus. O wonderful God, every day is a great day in Thee.
You see now why I said, “I love this psalm.” Now we must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you to come this morning; a couple you, a one somebody you, “Pastor, today, I’m coming to the Lord, giving my life in faith and love to Him.” Or, “Pastor, today we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this sweet church.” As God shall say the word and make the appeal, come this morning. Make that decision now. And in a moment when you stand, stand up coming. We’ll look for you. God will be glad and we’ll be glad. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. “I will take the cup of salvation”
A. A way in Israel
B. Our Eucharistic cup
C. To accept pleases, honors and glorifies God
II. “I will call upon the name of the Lord”
III. “I will pay my vows”
IV. “I will offer to Thee the sacrifices of thanksgiving”